The New York Red Bulls II have some quality players who have performed well this season. Here are some candidates to make the leap to the senior team.
It is no secret that the New York Red Bulls have developed one of the best youth academy infrastructures in MLS. The club has made it a priority over the past few seasons of turning homegrown players into stars and solid players at the next level. The academy’s star pupil, Tyler Adams, just moved to Germany as one of the most promising young talents in world football.
A major part of that youth development is Red Bull II, the USL affiliate of the Red Bulls, a breeding ground for younger, raw talent. Players like Derrick Etienne and Adams have spent time with Red Bull II.
The club is coming off another successful season under coach, and former Red Bull player, John Wolyniec. They made their third straight Eastern Conference final but, much like the senior team, failed to get it done in the playoffs.
Enough with the negatives, however, let’s look at some of the players that can make the jump to Major League Soccer in 2019. For the purposes of this article, players like Etienne and Ben Mines, who fans of the senior team have already seen, will not be included.
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Starting with attacking players, Jared Stroud proved to be the key cog in NYRB II’s attacking third in 2018. Stroud, 22, was a fourth-round pick in last year’s MLS SuperDraft. In his first season, he produced 11 assists to go along with seven goals.
Stroud, who played his college soccer at Colgate, showed that he could score in a variety of ways. Of the seven goals, he scored two with his left foot, three with his, and two with his head. It might be a lot to expect after just one professional season to make the jump to the Red Bulls already crowded group of attacking midfielders with Etienne, a healthy Mines, Daniel Royer, and Kaku, but in a small role, Stroud might be able to contribute to the senior team in 2019.
The most important stat to look at with Stroud is the distribution of passes. The majority of Stroud’s passes, over 31 per cent, move the ball forward, which led to 59 key passes — the pass that leads to a shot or a goal — in 2018. The 59 chances created by Stroud was good for second on the team, only trailing Andrew Tinari, but it wasn’t close.
Tinari, 23, finished with 110 chances created in 36 appearances, while also chipping in seven goals. The Long Island native also proved to be a key member of the team’s defensive presence. He had a team-leading 84 attempted tackles, 50 of which were successful.
Tinari’s a smaller midfielder who buzzes around the field looking to get involved in any action he can. Sound familiar?
Now, it’s way too much pressure to put on Tinari to expect him to be the heir to Adams’ throne. It’s not fair to Tinari, and replacing Adams won’t simply be a different player in the same role. But the two do have similar styles. With a gaping hole in the midfield thanks to Adams’ departure, it seems negligent to not give someone as active as Tinari a look with the senior team.
Another strong performer for the USL affiliate has been Hassan Ndam. Ndam, 20, was named as a USL Young Player of the Year finalist and it was well deserved. The Cameroonian center-back led the team in all defensive categories, including interceptions, duels and clearance.
The problem for Ndam won’t necessarily be in his control, however. With the addition of Tim Parker last season and the emergence of Aaron Long, Ndam has some stiff competition to try and break into the Red Bulls back four.
He did see some slivers of playing time in 2018, a game that ended 1-1 against Columbus. And in the U.S. Open Cup, Ndam also started in a 4-0 win against NYCFC. At 6-feet-4-inches, Ndam has the physical tools to be an MLS center-back. The problem will be facing the competition ahead of him.
With additional talented goalscorers like Amando Moreno and Tom Barlow also in the system, the Red Bulls do have some options should the goalscoring dry up in 2019.
The Red Bulls aren’t necessarily losing a large quantity of players for next season, but they are certainly losing a lot of quality. Some of the youth players who spent last year in the USL will therefore need to make the jump to the MLS for next season.